Clergymen Hope for the Best, Ready for the Worst

ABS-CBN [Philippines]
Downloaded June 15, 2003

At least 52 members of the clergy of the Diocese of Novaliches will submit to any Vatican decision concerning Bishop Teodoro Bacani Jr. although they feel that he is innocent of the sexual harassment charges lodged against him.

In a letter addressed to Papal Nuncio Antonio Franco, the Vatican's representative to the Philippines, the priests said that they are leaving Bacani's fate to Rome.

"No matter how anxious we feel about the future of our Bishop and our diocese, we know very clearly that we must simply obey whatever decision the proper authorities in our Church need to make," said the letter, dated June 13, the same day that the nuncio arrived in Manila from Rome.

Franco flew to the Vatican to report on the investigation on Bacani. Pope John Paul II will decide the case.

The Novaliches priests, however, asked the nuncio to consider Bacani's work in the five-month old diocese in reporting on his case.

"We only hope that your Excellency and the proper Church officials would take into consideration that we as clergy have become instruments of mercy and kindness in the way our bishop has clearly exemplified by his words, deeds and disposition," the letter indicated.

They also said that Bacani's continued silence despite his reputation as an outspoken man on public issues did not demoralize them, but made them more solid as a community.

"Instead of being scandalized, we have been very much edified by the constant compassion, mercy and kindness that our bishop has demonstrated with regards to those who have accused him. Hence, in no way has our trust in him been diminished. With this demonstration of full submission and obedience to the hierarchy of the Church, our bishop has inspired us to fulfill this same obedience in self-sacrifice to seek not our own rights and privileges but rather the greater good of the Church," said the letter.

Meanwhile, Msgr. Romulo Raņada, Bacani's spokesman, said the Vatican has yet to render a decision on Bacani, who is being charged with sexual harassment by his former secretary.

"So far the nuncio has not informed us of anything," said Raņada in an interview after he said Mass Sunday at the Cathedral of Good Shepherd in Fairview, Quezon City.

He said the Vatican envoy went to Rome not only to report on Bacani's case but to "report on the state of the Church in the Philippines."

"There are other issues, this [Bacani's] is just one of them," he explained. Raņada said the beleaguered bishop is "doing fine" but at the same time "worried" over the Vatican's decision.

"He's concerned about what's happening," he said, adding there were only a few times that he spoke to the bishop who is now in the United States. A source from the Novaliches diocese who requested anonymity said the priests in the diocese were told by Bacani to go on "business as usual" while he is in the U.S.

The source denied that the Vatican already has a decision on the Bacani case although the investigation started as early as April. C. Jimenez


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